“WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HOOSIER VALUES? GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR (expletive deleted)!” That submission to this week’s e-mail bag arrived early last Friday morning. It was signed George and Mary, leaving me to ponder which was the author.
I choose to believe it was Mary, the early riser, who read The Star with her morning coffee, and, adequately caffeinated, hit the all-caps button and began her day by mugging me on e-mail. As I imagine it, Mary goes back to the bedroom, grabs the napping George by his pajamas and screams, “I JUST TOLD KEN BODE TO TAKE HIS HEAD OUT OF HIS (expletive deleted)!!”
If I were George, I’d burn the bed.
The e-mails I received about last week’s column on Hoosier values and Evan Bayh numbered about 40 and ran 4-1 against me. Larry Ohair of Lebanon, who writes often, claimed I had insulted his intelligence. Phil Flynn from Wisconsin called me a “radical left-winger.”
Charlie Alley wondered: “Is Ken Bode really as ignorant of our Constitution and the meaning of ‘advise and consent’ as his column indicates, or is he just another of those tired, old leftist, media types? My guess is that it’s the latter.” Charlie might have chosen all of the above.
Not all reader e-mails are like that. Some of my regular communicants recognize that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. In a few cases the result has been an ongoing exchange of ideas. Jim Gahimer and I have been sharing thoughts on the comparisons of Vietnam 30-years ago and Iraq today. His latest message came to him, he said, while he was mowing the lawn.
If you write a political column these days, you are going to get dissenting e-mails, many of them vitriolic, bellicose, fist shaking. I’ve been called ignorant, duplicitous and a fathead. Some e-mails you just don’t open, like the one labeled “ANOTHER LOUSY COLUMN.” The all-caps technique is used by Hoosiers who want you to know they are screaming.
For questioning the wisdom of the Iraq war, I am regularly called unpatriotic and a traitor. Many Star readers believe that you must not question Bush, Rice, Rumsfeld or Cheney and you can’t support the troops if you don’t support the war. They follow this misguided president like a herd of sheep.
The Internet imparts courage of invisibility. People who might have a perfectly rational point of view choose to express it in the most derisive, insulting manner possible.
When Neal Williams accused me of an “elitist liberal mentality” that considered most Americans “stupid (expletive deleted),” I wrote him back: “Is it just the anonymity of e-mail that gives you courage, or are you also this insulting and disagreeable in person?”
Williams was graceful in retreat: “You are right. I fired off the e-mail . . . without putting much thought into it. After reading it now, it was way out of line. I am sorry.” It turned into a gentlemanly exchange.
I’ve learned to admit mistakes of fact, judgment and spelling. So have some readers, like one who accused me of endorsing George W. Bush. When I corrected him, he went back to the Star archive to check. He wrote: “With my ability to shoot from the lip sometimes getting me into trouble . . . I’ve learned that crow is far more digestible when taken warm.”
I’d like a little more civility in readers’ e-mails, but if you write a column, you’re going to hear back. Virginia Woolf put it this way: “I look upon disregard or abuse as part of my bargain. I’m to write what I like and they’re to say what they like.”